My Comics about the Vikings: Getting Obscure

If you are reading this, chances are that you have come seeking further knowledge from my previous post regarding comics about the Vikings and where to begin, plus where to go next. If not, well, you are in for a triple bill and you can find the first part of this here: https://manaburnt.wordpress.com/2017/10/09/my-comics-about-the-vikings-where-to-begin/

And the second one here: https://manaburnt.wordpress.com/2017/10/13/my-comics-about-the-vikings-one-step-further/

Today, however, I will be discussing comics that talk about the Vikings and that perhaps fall under the radar for various issues – mostly the language barrier.

Saxo Grammaticus History of the Danes – Graphic Novel

If you didn’t know that there was a comic book version of the History of the Danes written by Saxo Grammaticus, do not be alarmed – I didn’t either until I stumbled across it at Kronenborg Castle in Denmark! It is two volumes, emulating the original source. The sad news is that it is, indeed, all in Danish. However, for a Danish noob like me, I found that with a little help from a  dictionary, and due to the fact that there is not a ridiculous amount of text, the images really help you understand what is happening so you can follow the narrative fairly well.

Continue reading “My Comics about the Vikings: Getting Obscure”

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My Comics about the Vikings: One Step Further

If you are reading this, chances are that you have come seeking further knowledge from my previous post regarding comics about the Vikings and where to begin. If not, well, you are in for a double bill and you can find the first part of this here: https://manaburnt.wordpress.com/2017/10/09/my-comics-about-the-vikings-where-to-begin/

So, you have gone around reading about Thorsfinn, Sven the Badass, the reckless Siegfried and our daring Valkyrie and you have thought to yourself: I need more. I need that extra layer. Then, you are now part of the brotherhood and I shall guide you throughout this process. The next three pieces I present you with provide different looks on to Early Scandinavian society and the Viking Age. The vary in tone and style. But I think, above all, what they provide us with is a further degree of immersion. Now I appreciate Northlanders is pretty good for that…but I never said it was about better quality: this is just about the extra bits.

Gods of Asgard

Continue reading “My Comics about the Vikings: One Step Further”

My Comics about the Vikings: Where to Begin

It’s been a while since I have gone down the comic business, mostly because I have been caught up with other stuff that was non-comic related. I have been playing lots of board games lately, I guess that has been more on my mind. But, as you all know, comics and I are like bread and butter. I have noticed that there was one thing that I had not done yet, which perhaps some of you may find interesting, and that relates to my studies directly. So as I have been revising my sources for a paper I am currently writing, I thought, “Hey, why not share some of these bad boys to the rest of our friends?”. Therefore, here I present you with my list of, badass, cool (and in most cases historically accurate) comics and graphic novels regarding the Vikings :3

You will find the big boys, aka Marvel and DC, do not publish much on the subject of historically related subjects in their mainstream stuff, which SUCKS. You gotta go to Image and independent publishers to get this sort of things. So if you haven’t heard of a lot of these people, don’t panic.

NORTHLANDERS:

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Really Cool Awesome Chat with Nic & Stack from Owlman Press!

Today we bring you an interview with our good friends from Owlman Press Nic & Stack. Here they will tell you a bit about themselves, their company and projects, which are all very exciting. You have already heard about their work in this space from our review of Skum of the Stars -Skum of the Stars Review

It is thanks to their game that we met and we want to share their awesomeness with you – so hook up 🙂

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Dear Stack and Nic, please first of all could you tell our readers, how did Owlman Press get to be? Could you explain to them a bit of your background as individuals and how this all ties in together? What are your roles?

Nic: I was raised on a farm in rural New South Wales. I grew up with a lot of Western movies and developed from a young age a love of the genre. As I grew older, I really wanted to make my own. That said, for someone who grew up wanting to write the area near us didn’t cater to many interests. It was either football or fishing (there was also tennis, but that was for the weird people). Writing certainly wasn’t one. So, I pretty much felt lost all the time, unable to explore my interests until I discovered that the nearby town had a comic store. There I discovered roleplay games in the form of Deadlands: The Weird West. My first experience playing was as the Game Master and I quickly found that the role gave me a vehicle to tell stories and develop writing skills in a way that I just didn’t have access to anywhere else.  Again, after playing that for a bit I really wanted to make my own. By the time I was doing my PhD, examining the role of Tonto in the Lone Ranger, I’d consumed enough Westerns and a wide enough array of games to get a sense of what I both wanted to do and do differently with both. My first game, Frankenstein Atomic Frontier, really started as a vehicle for me to both – write westerns and roleplay games. Owlman Press came out of that.

In terms of roles, Stack and myself often initiate concepts jointly, talking about them back and forth. I typically flesh them out into actual background and add the rules. Stack manages the “public profile” side of things for our games along with managing the contacts and so forth. She is also the quality control, reading over everything to make sure it’s up to scratch. We also have great body of friends who help us develop our concepts and come around regularly to play. If you look in our books, you’ll see the same names popping up over and over again.

Stack: So, I grew up in a couple of small country town called firstly Clunes and then Scarsdale both of which are several hundred kilometres away from where Nic grew up. I enjoyed reading and writing from a young age as well as sports such as Roller Hockey until I experienced a sporting injury which has caused life-long complications and a chronic pain condition. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do once I finished high school. All I knew was that I really loved circus/sideshow and writing. So I enrolled into a professional writing and editing degree which is where I met Nic. I hadn’t played any table top RPG type games till I met him so a whole new world was opened up to me at that point. After we started dating we started several projects together, various magazines with other writers, a local writers group nothing really stuck, and eventually Owlman Press sort of developed out of these experiences, and as the games developed further. I look after the social media side of things mostly cause I’m a internet junkie and edit everything developed through Owlman.

I deferred my writing degree several times over the years as we grew our family – being a stay at home Mum for six years while Nic studied his PhD. I eventually went back and finished the final units to attain my writing degree in 2014 (three kids later!) I considered going onto BA Honours but personal experiences helped me find a new passion in women’s healthcare and pregnancy and birthing rights. So now I find myself studying nursing which I’m loving.  

I guess this is just a fancy way of asking, how did you guys get to be so cool?! Because you are parenting, working, researching, making games, photography…I mean, do you guys sleep?! It takes some pretty special kind of people to get going what you have – apart from the fact that as people you two are just Cool, nice and pretty awesome. What is your secret? Do you struggle? We all know it is hard for independent creative people like yourselves to keep things going.

Nic: How did I get to be this cool? Easy – I do what every other cool Australian does. I hunt and kill a Dropbear every morning before sunrise, and then eat it for breakfast. Science and other sources show that eating a Dropbear is guaranteed to make you cooler. In all seriousness, however, I’m going to take the first part of that question as a compliment. I’m honestly just following my passions.

Continue reading “Really Cool Awesome Chat with Nic & Stack from Owlman Press!”

Interview with Emily Whitaker: author of Ladies of Market Street

Today we bring you an interview with independent comic book author Emily Whitaker. She will be unveiling the story behind her latest creation of Ladies of Market Street, a comic about “crime-fighting hookers”.

The comic is out for sale through amazon and you can find it here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01N37BQ3T

You can also follow Emily on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ee_whit

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So Emily, please tell us… We know you and Trey met at a local art show, and that is how you two managed to pull this off, because of your cool skills were like peanut butter and jam…But how did you come up with something as remarkable as crime fighting hookers?!

This is actually a story that has been with me for years now.  I elude to the fact that the Ladies are also Real-Estate agents.  I get into more of this in the next issue.  But they use the vacant apartments for parties and to entertain their Johns and such things!  And it is that Real-Estate Agency that first gave birth to this strange story.  In 2003 I worked at a Real-Estate agency in New York and all the people were young artists.  We would use the vacant apartments for everything… if we needed a bathroom, a place to change, or some privacy!!!  My roommate was in love with an apartment on the upper east side that wouldn’t sell because they were asking too much.  So every Sunday she would go there to paint because the sun would come through the windows just right!  I wrote our story at first, but it was about that time that I was coming face to face with facts of human trafficking throughout the world and in the city.  The only way I knew to fight it was to write about it.  And to create women who were strong enough and savvy enough to truly fight something so heinous.  So I put pen to paper and got to create these amazing women and  fight the war the only way I knew how.  It is a serious subject, but while I was writing it I felt I wanted to be friends with these women.  And that is the joy I hope my readers have as well.

Continue reading “Interview with Emily Whitaker: author of Ladies of Market Street”

3 ‘Grandes’ of Spanish Comic-book Art: Kenny, Rubin & Calderon

Today I bring you something I think is pretty cool: some golden gems drawn on the spot from some top Spanish comic book artist that are not given the creds they deserve outside of my home country. So this is a tribute to their genius and to Spanish comics. If you know anything about me (if you are reading this it is likely by this stage you know something) it should not come as a surprise that a comic book scholar owns things like this. What is surprising is the art work itself. These pieces have also interesting and sentimental stories attach to them, therefore I’ll give you some details about these stories, – and the comics themselves, of course!!

El Misterio del Capitán Nemo (2012) – Mathieu Gabella & Kenny Ruiz

This is actually the piece that started the collection. I first engaged with Kenny’s work when I was in college, with one of his most renown works to that moment: El Cazador de Rayos (The Lightning Hunter). An incredibly touching story about believe, technology, survival and the making of oneself. But this reinterpretation I guess you can call it of Captain Nemo was just amazing. I loved every single page. Although very much a villain, Nemo is fantastic. There is, I don’t know, I guess slight Jaffaresque essence to him that makes him a lovable evil in a way. So how did this end up with me? Well, my parents were living in Toledo at the time and they happened to go to the Feria del Libro in Madrid (Madrid’s bookfaire), where Kenny was doing some signings. That was like 4 years ago now (2013), so very shortly after the comic was actually released.

Continue reading “3 ‘Grandes’ of Spanish Comic-book Art: Kenny, Rubin & Calderon”

Badaptations – Why Anime and Videogame movies don’t work

If you’ve been a geek as long as I have you’ve seen your fair share of Badaptations. Hell if you’ve been a geek this past year alone you’re probably sick of them!

It’s no secret that as much as we love series, films and videogames that fit outside the norm of mainstream cinema the transition to the silver screen has always been a rough one. Some of the lauded worst-ever films have been attempts of shoving a popular franchise into a two hour box and calling it a Hollywood release. But is it really so hard to get it right? Are there really so many hurdles between source and screen? Well I welcome you to a brief tour of the absolute chaotic maelstrom of getting ANYTHING right in big screen adaptations. Grab your favourite comic and clutch your Nintendo DS because this is going to hurt.

Let’s start big: Why culture isn’t as cultured as we’d like to think.
The impact of cultural difference may not seem to be a challenging adaptation hurdle outside of the obvious points (like language, locations, common phrases) however there are many possibly alienating differences in your common anime and videogames. Consider for a moment that almost all anime (and most videogames) share a cultural fingerprint with Japan- a country where academic intelligence is lionised, eating at a noodle tent is like stopping by Starbucks and every entertainment label worth their salt is churning out teenage starlets by the dozen. It may not stand out in every moment of action but there are plenty of quirks in the daily life of the Land of the rising sun that outside audiences would find unconventional, and are often removed during the adaptation process… or replaced, as was the case with Pokémon swapping the term Rice Ball with ‘Jelly Donuts’.

After all, compared to major American cinema how many films do you see each year that take place entirely in a high school?

Then there are Theological differences- a lot of ideas tend to stem from the subtle cultural touches that come from a society’s deep routed religious history. We tend to be blind to it, about how even the simplest parts of how we see the world are moulded by it; what should and shouldn’t be illegal, the dividing line between sentient and non-sentient objects, our value against the greater universe. Even issues that evolve over time like the justification of prejudice against others. In entertainment these usually come across in the major themes, like someone’s personal struggle or the formation of the world around them. Movies like AKIRA, Spirited Away, Ghost in the Shell and countless more deeply reflect the theological differences that are more prominent in the east, thus making them much more difficult to translate to an audience that doesn’t relate to them. While the transhumanist philosophies in Ghost in the Shell could still be followed by anyone willing to put thought into their movie experience the more niche messages of reincarnation and the organic spirit may be lost. Cultural and theological differences form the greatest obstacle when it comes to making an adaptation of any property from a foreign country- and unfortunately the Hollywood studio system has a putrid record of translating these ideas.

To address the real elephant in the room I would like to call into question the ‘unspoken problem’ with the movie making mentality of Hollywood and the greater system, however that would be untrue. Audiences and critics around the world have been chastising the Hollywood studios for years now about their inherently flawed means of putting stories and adaptations to the silver screen however it has yet to see any results. It would be more accurate to call it a ‘frequently spoken problem’.
That problem being the curse of studio intervention and attempting to fit all properties through what I can only describe as the Hollywood Bottleneck. With dozens, if not hundreds, of critical eyes on a production from its inception and storyboarding right the way through to post-editing it’s no surprise that the amount of meddling can sink a project before its even reached completion. While we’ve seen countless instances of this in our chosen sample group, such as the more recent Assassins Creed movie being heavily cut for ‘simplicity’ and the Ghost in the Shell movie being entirely re-written from its source, adaptations from foreign sources are not the only victims. The most recent attempt at bringing the Fantastic Four superhero troupe to the big screen fell victim to so much studio dissection that its director Josh Trank released a statement about the film being a failure and not “his story” even before the movie premiered.
An unfortunate truth of seeing well-established stories from other mediums pushed through the ringer of Hollywood is that every step of production will see cuts and changes made for localisation, meeting the standards of the general audience, marketability, hitting the broadest possible age demographic, appeasing interests groups etc.
And while I would love to round off the point here and lay the entirety of the blame on the studio system I sadly cannot, though I will place MOST of it on them.

Let’s not forget the hand of the creator is a powerful thing. The person who forges a story or product will do so through their own lens and much of that creator will be seen in the work- this is an art philosophy that has existed for thousands of years. As such we can understand why there are dangers in passing the work of one individual into the care of another for adaptation, but this is not inherently a bad thing. A new set of hands can make changes that put new perspective on the work or allow a different generation to appreciate its message. An example being the translation of book to theatre; such as Gaston Leroux’s ‘Phantom of the Opera’ being passed to Andrew Lloyd Webber for the stage play. However one must be very careful that the artist the work is passed to be appropriate and understands the source material- not something we can say has often happened in nerdy adaptations. In fact some have been downright disasters.

As a case study let’s look at M. Night Shyamalan and his Avatar-less ‘Last Airbender’ movie. While there is no small task in crafting a three-season long show into a few clean cut movies it was not the inclusion of content, or even the changing of details, that destroyed this franchise and left them dead at just one movie out of the proposed three. It was that Shyamalan did not respect the style and voice of the original material and attempted to impose a style on top of it. Anyone familiar with the director’s works can immediately spot the tropes he employs: the colourless environment, the long sequences of slow, heavy sounding dialogue, a reliance on exposition instead of establishing shots or character action. These devices- frequently employed in his other works- starkly contrast the story he’s attempting to adapt and it shows in every single scene. This is a true example of the artist’s voice conflicting with the voice of the original work, something we’ve seen often in similar projects… Rocky Morton and the Super Mario Brothers, James Wong and Dragonball… And anything Uwe Boll touches. Ugh.

This leaves us with the double-edged sword. The curse of production that many would perceive as a great strength and is often used to berate the movie making culture for being unable to turn simple, low-cost source material into a ‘big budget’ worldwide release. The fact of the matter is that movies are a substantial investment of money as well as talent, but that financing is not simply for prettying up the existing material they work with. Everything in film carries a substantial cost, from the crew and actors to the visual and sound design to the intensive editing and promotional side. As a result we often see tens if not hundreds of millions spent on otherwise unimpressive products.

For example the applauded anime movie Dragonball Z Resurrection F cost a respectable 5 million dollars to produce and making ten times that in profit. By comparison the American production Dragonball Evolution film cost a whopping (though cheap by Hollywood standard) 45 million to create. That’s a considerable distance between the two and the simple fact that one is animated and the other live-action has a lot to do with that. We must remember that animation and digital animation are inherently cheaper than all the components that go into a live-action remake, not to mention the gross disregard for spending that goes into a production of this size.
Similarly the Ghost in the Shell (2017) movie cost 110 million but turned only 20 million in sales domestically, barely 50 more than that worldwide. Proof that with such elevated production costs the inevitable drop when a product fails is much, much more devastating. This also applies in the world of video games, which in their native medium are already more expensive to create that animated films or series. Assassin Creed (2007) cost 26 million to create on console and the movie adaptation a decade later cost more than 100 million above even that!

Is this weight of absurd money-spewing something we simply have to live with in film-making? Actually no, one of the highest grossing films of the last few decades was Paranormal Activity which had a price tag of approximately… 11,000. Barely even breaking five digits. But turned a mind blowing 200 million in profits around the world after audiences everywhere requested their movie theatres begin showings all across America and then in Europe.
The moral lesson to learn here is that the greatest profits come from good movies, regardless of how much they are budgeted. The same will be true of the best adaptations from geek culture once it begins to sink in that multi-million dollar botched projects are not the only way to bring an idea to a western audience. Though there is much speculation at this time the Netflix ‘Death Note’ movie is set to air soon and may be able to set a precedent that lower cost endeavours are actually the more profitable means of ‘westernising’ anime, but only time will tell.

Videogames and anime to this day suffer a taboo in the movie-centric western world. This sceptical eye of the public has thankfully been loosening over the past two decades, with videogames now becoming hot property in the world of media sales (though the actual products themselves are still shown very little regard) and despite anime never finding a mainstream hook it has achieved a loyal fanbase in the western audience- enough so to generate large scale conventions of its own.
While these mediums are not universally beloved in the east, with Japan and Korea being major players, they are not stigmatised for their medium or inherent design- with locations such as Akihabra Tokyo even celebrating them as a major source of tourism.
This same dismissal was only recently shared by the comic book industry here in the west, but with the rise of Marvel and the oversaturation of comicbook movies we’ve seen how vastly this has changed. But why are comic books the exception to this terrible curse while anime and games retain their stigma?

The simple answer is; they aren’t. Comics are not an exception; they have simply been present in the popular consciousness long enough and with enough exposure that we have adopted it into the mainstream. This is partly why the explosive success seems so universal in geek culture here, because it’s one of the few elements of nerd-centric entertainment that has appealed to such a wide fanbase and with constant new content from major studios. That isn’t to say it was an overnight success story- many people applaud comic movies as a running success but this simply isn’t true, there were dozens of missteps and failures leading to this point, with films like Batman and Robin (1997), The Fantastic Four (2005), The Hulk (2003) and Captain America (1990) to name just a few!

One argument often overlooked is the success of the loosely inspired adaptations. These are movies which take the original material as a jumping off point but create something new from them, like the surprisingly great 2014 film Edge of Tomorrow which was based on the light manga ‘All you need is Kill’. Similarly the original Matrix film pledges its inspiration to anime movies like AKIRA and Ghost in the Shell while still forming its own story and narrative, just with similar themes and tropes.
While this method is difficult to pull off and does require a talented writer familiar with the sources it may prove the most effective means of bridging the cultural gap.
But what happens when these kind of changes are made on a property that’s attempting, at least by appearances, to emulate its source material? This is a frequent cause of controversy in adaptations that make alterations to elements people believe to be crucial to the source. Often seen in cases of relocating a story to a different country or entire time period, or the dreaded ‘white-washing’ effect.

We’re in an unfortunate time where controversy can be called on even when the adaptation doesn’t overstep itself- simply because a rough history has conditioned us to be especially critical.
Even though the 2017 movie was terrible it should be recognised that Major Mokoto from Ghost in the Shell (the lead heroine) is SUPPOSED to be modelled after an American woman, and a model no less. So all the claims of whitewashing here are actually more knee-jerk reaction than actual outrage. Many sites have reported this ‘race-bending’ (as appears to be the new term) is a major contributor to the movies downfall, but is it really? Granted many examples of re-casting inappropriate actors has wounded similar attempts, like the appalling ethnicity twisting in Last Airbender which saw the Inuit main cast becoming white and the notably pale Japanese antagonists becoming dark skinned Indian and Arabic… even stranger to note Shyamalan as the director is an Indian man himself.

Before I’m bombarded with pitchforks and flaming love-pillows allow me to draw attention to an important factor; even in their native countries adaptations of games and anime are often BAD. Anyone seeking proof need look no further than the 2015 Attack on Titan movie, which flopped with audiences and critics despite the show being at the height of popularity. Similar issues can be seen with the upcoming Full Metal Alchemist movie which many predict will slump into a similar trap as previous pop-anime films. On the other hand there has also been a history of successes with highly-praised movies like Oldboy and Battle Royale seeing large renown internationally despite being based on a manga, with most people completely unaware of their origins. Also the incredibly popular Death Note live-action movies spawning multiple sequels and spin offs that have reached a worldwide audience.

With our collective minds aching from all these different problems its clear to see why we’ve hit so many stumbling points in our pursuit of perfect adaptations. The source material is rarely fitting of a cinematic runtime, we’re stacking writers and directors on works they have no connection to, the Hollywood studio system is poisonous even at the best of times and most importantly we’re attempting to adapt material that has a fundamentally different philosophy than most of the audiences its being re-directed to. Does this swarm of flies in the ointment mean we’ll never see a golden age of nerd cinema?

If comic books are anything to go by what we’re actually seeing is the growing pains of new genres. The failures that will eventually be recognised for what they did wrong not only as a means of critique but also a means of learning. It may take some time before we see our first breakthrough- our Batman Begins or our Ironman- but once that success comes we’ll see every studio holding rights to major anime and videogame properties doing everything in their power to imitate it. We have to remember that, even though our beloved franchises are outside the norm, if something makes money then everyone wants a piece of it. If cinema is a corrupt game of follow-the-money then we’ll leave a trail of silver dollars.

Also; If they dare mess up AKIRA with a badaptation we will riot.